Privacy International and Others v. the United Kingdom (communicated case) (European Court of Human Rights)

Information Note on the Court’s case-law 224
December 2018

Privacy International and Others v. the United Kingdom (communicated case)46259/16

Article 8
Article 8-1
Respect for private life
Equipment Interference (“hacking”) by intelligence agencies: communicated
Article 10
Article 10-1
Freedom of expression
Equipment Interference (“hacking”) by intelligence agencies: communicated
Article 13
Effective remedy
Equipment Interference (“hacking”) by intelligence agencies: communicated

The first applicant, Privacy International, is an NGO registered in London. The second applicant, GreenNet Limited, is an Internet service provider registered in London. The third applicant, Chaos Computer Club E.V., is an association of “hacktivists” registered in Germany. The fourth and fifth applicants, Media Jumpstart Inc. and Riseup Networks Inc., are companies registered in the United States providing Internet services and communications services respectively. The sixth applicant, Korean Progressive Network Jinbonet, is an Internet service provider registered in South Korea.

The applicants believe that their equipment has been subject to interference known as Computer Network Exploitation or Equipment Interference, colloquially known as “hacking”, over an undefined period by the United Kingdom Government Communications Headquarters and/or the Secret Intelligence Service, which obtained authorisations to conduct that Equipment Interference under section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 (“the ISA”). Section 7 of the ISA allows the Secretary of State to authorise a person to undertake (and to exempt them from liability for) an act outside the British Islands in relation to which they would be liable if it were done in the United Kingdom.

The applicants complain under Articles 8 and 10 of the Convention that the power under section 7 of the ISA is not in accordance with the law in the absence of a code of practice governing its use; that the section contains no requirement for judicial authorisation; that there is no information in the public domain about how it might be used to authorise Equipment Interference; and that there is no requirement for filtering to exclude irrelevant material. The applicants also complain under Article 13 that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal did not provide an effective remedy as it did not rule on the Section 7 regime in the domestic litigation.

Communicated under Articles 8, 10 and 13 of the Convention.

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